(WOMENSENEWS)– As Tiger Woods returns to the golf spotlight at the Masters Tournament at the men-only Augusta National Golf Club this week, the irony of a man publicly humiliated for using women like Kleenex staging his comeback at a club where women can’t even be second-class citizens is glaring.
A great anonymous post to the Boston Golf Examiner read, "(How perfect that a) man who doesn’t respect women has opted to restart his golf career at a golf course that does not respect women."
It could also be considered lamentable that Woods did not use this moment of supreme leverage — the Masters would be nothing without him — to end the discrimination. That’s what Billie Jean King did when she won the U.S. Open in l972 and her prize purse was $15,000 less her male counterpart’s. King said she would not be back in ’73 if the prize money was not equalized, the promoters knew they needed her, and in l973 the purses for men and women were identical.
But Woods lives so totally in his own bubble that asking him to think of doing something for someone else is laughable. He had the chance to take a stance on Augusta when the National Council of Women’s Organizations started pressing the question at the 2002 Masters. He passed.
Corporate Qualms Go Missing
The question that does have to be asked is why, in 2010, corporate America has no qualms about participating big-time in a four-day frenzy of media coverage and corporate partying emanating from a club that still excludes women.
Augusta gave up on race discrimination in l990 when Alabama’s Shoals Creek golf club was unable to host a PGA tournament because of that organization’s rule that clubs hosting PGA events may not be racially segregated.
Even though the Masters is exempt from the rule because it is classified as a non-PGA Tour co-sponsored event, Augusta saw the handwriting on the wall, didn’t want protesters from the Rainbow Coalition at its gates, and admitted a man who wasn’t white — without the usual long waiting time.
In 2002, when Martha Burk, president of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, began urging Augusta to end its sex discrimination, she met with derision from the club, but for the following two years corporations withdrew their sponsorship and the Masters was broadcast without commercials.
Today, however, America’s top companies are back to advertise and party, all, of course, at the taxpayers’ expense. Every penny of this is deducted as a business expense, so taxpayers are promoting and subsidizing Augusta’s discrimination.
As a lawyer with Legal Momentum I have been involved since the l970s with legislation and litigation all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court to end discrimination against women and minorities at clubs and organizations ranging from "private" men’s clubs to the Jaycees that are, in fact, centers of business activity.
Our point has always been the same. In the 1979 words of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then a law professor: "If women are not offered equal access, if they are not welcomed as full members of the club, they are kept away from a traditional avenue for self-development, economic and political opportunity and advancement."
And make no mistake, Augusta is about business. The centrality of golf to American business is so apparent that women–and plenty of men as well–have felt driven to learn and play a game many don’t even like in order to join a foursome with their clients or company higher-ups.
The centrality of business at Augusta is such that the interlocking directorates of their members make a daisy chain across corporate America.
We are told that we live in a "post-feminist" world and we no long need worry our little heads with the concerns that sparked the women’s movement.
But as the Masters attest, we aren’t there yet. For further proof, check out Susan Douglas’ new book, "Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism’s Work Is Done."
Lynn Hecht Schafran is an attorney, Senior Vice President of Legal Momentum and Director of its National Judicial Education Program.
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